Fourth place, I'm rich!

Fourth place, I’m rich!

So the Baseball Writers Association of America gives away its awards this week. The tone of most awards debates took a turn for the ugly over recent years, as the proliferation of more evaluative statistics reshaped the way these honors are considered and awarded.

Very clear lines were drawn in the sand and both “sides”, such as they are, follow the “you’re either with us or against us” diametric. It’s dumb and reached peak stupidity last year.

The Mike Trout versus Miguel Cabrera 2012 AL MVP debate put the final nails in the reasonable discourse coffin. Intelligent, reasonable back-and-forth discussion is gone and it isn’t coming back. If you want to know my feelings on that matter, read this.

All we have left is down ballot anger. Stray votes cast for inexplicable players by unrecognizable writers. Out of left field picks meant to bewilder, defended under the guise of “difference of opinion” when they’re often just straight-up homer picks. No justification necessary, just own it in a public forum.

Even though some people (guilty!) really want awards to mean more than nothing, it’s hard to imagine a time when they might be anything more than a pleasant distraction when Your Guy wins. Worse yet, the 2013 award class seems like a series of slam dunks. Other than the NL MVP, the winner of the “big” awards is all but assured.

Which makes picking these awards really easy. Doubly easy since they now publicize the three finalists for the awards. You want hard? You want a challenge? Let’s figure out who will finish fourth in the big awards voting.

AL Rookie of the Year

The winner of this award will end up as one of Wil Myers, Chris Archer, or Jose Iglesias. Who will win? Who cares. We’re playing for fourth here, friends. Our pressing concern is who will fall just behind the top three threshold.

A case can be made for a few different position players. A few mediocre players put up some mediocre numbers playing for mediocre teams, which all but counts them out. Starting pitchers are easy to vote for, especially once they get to a double digit win total. (Advanced stats are only used for the top of ballots. Baseball cards hold sway in the murky down-ballot depths.)

It will end up a dead heat between Dan Straily and the Martin Perez. Straily pitched on a playoff team but could fall victim to vote-splitting when writers reach for the more glamourous choice of Sonny Grey, who pitched much better in his short ten-start season.

Which means Martin Perez is your AL Rookie of the Year fourth place finisher. Dan Straily ran a good campaign but his was a fifth-place season.

NL Rookie of the Year

When compared to the AL race, the NL finalists are legit players who all put up very, very respectable seasons – not to mention bright futures for Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, and Shelby Miller.

Do you know what a Jedd Gyorko is? Are you familiar with the work of Jedd Gyorko? Well, you shouldn’t be. Toiling in beige for the beigiest team in baseball, the San Diego Padres, Jedd Gyrko is an infielder who managed to knock 23 home runs playing everyday in the NL West. That’s pretty good.

Most years, that might be good enough to win the Rookie of the Year. Not this year. It won’t even be good enough for fourth, as one of Hyun-Jin Ryu or Juilo Tehran will take the (third-from) top honor this season. Making 30 starts as a rookie is good, even if you’re not a true rookie like Ryu.

Pitching 192 innings of 3.00 ERA ball (with his independent numbers right alongside) is nothing to sneeze at. Ryu was better than Shelby Miller in most ways other than pitching wins in 2014, which is to say Hyun-Jin Ryu was better than Shelby Miller in most ways that matter. But Miller will finish a distant third behind Puig & Jose Fernandez, with Ryu taking the fourth spot.

Manager(s) of the Year

The award given to the manager of a team that did either a) better than expected or b) better than usual. It is easily the dumbest of all the postseason awards.

The two of the three AL finalists are “wow, this team won more games than last season” candidates while the other is a sop to Billy Beane. The fourth place finisher will be the man who should actually win the hardwareJoe Girardi.

The National League finalists…I can’t even. Mike Matheny.

AL Cy Young

Reverse discrimination is not a real thing. Max Scherzer‘s case hinges largely on his 20 wins but, then again, all his other numbers are incredible, too. Which is we he’ll win. Darvish should finish second, Iwakuma third and Anibal Sanchez fourth. Because Anibal was really good in 2013.

As a bonus, there is a chance Mariano Rivera pops up in this spot. And it will be hilarious.

NL Cy Young

Given the raft of qualified candidates, somebody is going to lose out on fourth place glory. The redemption story of the Pirates might carry A.J. Burnett up the ballot while the eye-popping quality of Craig Kimbrel‘s numbers might get him there. Either way, Cliff Lee is going to be left out in the cold.

That is where Cliff Lee prefers, however. Cliff Lee steeled his indifference for your material world on the margins of society, cast aside for his brilliance and misunderstood for his aloof rejection of all our culture holds dear. Cliff Lee deserves better than us while we do not deserve Cliff Lee. It’s simple, really.

Fourth place is Craig Kimbrel’s to lose. Or Matt Harvey. Just not Cliff Lee.

AL MVP

Congratulations to Miguel Cabrera on his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. Whatever you believe about Mike Trout and WAR and the value of positional scarcity, you can’t say Miguel Cabrera doesn’t not deserve to win again.

As for the fourth place finisher behind Cabrera, Trout, and Chris Davis, while that has to be…Josh Donaldson? Is this the world we really live in now, where people give MVP votes to Josh Donaldson?

Oh right – .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs in a huge ballpark with good/solid/above-average defense at third base? That sounds about right for a fourth place candidate. The darkest of dark horses could be a Robinson Cano-type name brand player. Maybe a surprise appearance by David Ortiz? Adrian Beltre and Evan Longoria could foreseeably grab a first place vote or two but Josh Donaldson has this fourth place finish locked up.

NL MVP

Before the finalists were announced, I would have guessed Paul Goldschmidt would finish fourth. But he’s going to finish third behind Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina, so there goes that premonition. The WAR leaderboard is a bit of a mess, with Carlos Gomez and Matt Carpenter cluttering up the top as though they have any hope of garnering top three votes.

Joey Votto might climb to this slot but the smart money is on Clayton Kershaw getting a few first place nods and settling into a nice fourth place finish. A short-lived Kershaw for MVP case made the rounds, gaining enough momentum to suggest there is some will among the voting public to reward the left-hander’s great season.

Note: David Wright and Hanley Ramirez are both fine choices and deserving of top 5 MVP consideration because they were both insanely good in 2013. 11 fWAR in fewer than 1000 PAs between these two players. That’s good.

Recap

Actual winners (predicted): Myers, Fernandez, Farrell, Hurdle, Scherzer, Kershaw, Cabrera, McCutchen.

Fourth place finishers (assured by rigorous scientific method): Perez, Ryu, Girardi, Matheny, Sanchez, Kimbrel, Donaldson, Kershaw.

Tulo on the move

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported on Sunday night that he expects the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies to engage in trade talks centering on the Rockies franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies own Tulo approximately a zillion dollars over the next million years and need pitching help. The Cardinals are lousy with pitching and need a shortstop more than just about anything.

There are many barriers standing between Tulowitzki and the birds on a bat, though Ken Rosenthal reports he does NOT have no-trade clause as claimed previously.

Tulowitzki is the game’s premier shortstop…when he’s on the field. The Rox cornerstone hasn’t played 150 games in a season since 2009 and he only has three seasons with more than 600 plate appearances under his belt. But when he’s on the field, well, he’s simply the best at his position.

The Cardinals can afford to trade pitching more than any other club in the land. If Colorado wants Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals will easily absorb those losses, turning back to their underground foundry for two more pitching specimens.

The risk with Tulowtizki is actually quite high, as he’s almost 30 and already injury-prone and prohibitively expensive. But the reward…well the reward is more than just “he’s not Pete Kozma.” He’s a true elite talent at the most difficult position to fill in the stadium, well worth the price of two high-end arms plus whatever else the Rockies want.

They’re the Rockies, you have to at least assume they’ll reach for the “wrong” players in any potential deal. That’s how you get to be the Rockies. Colorado insists Tulowitzki is not available which could be a pre-emptive negotiating tactic or it could mean they don’t want to deal with the nightmare of trying to replace Tulo’s skills on the field and his face on the side of the stadium.

If ever there was a team armed to make such a move, it is the St. Louis Cardinals. If ever there was a team that needed to trade from their enviable pitching depth to shore up a crucial position, it is the St. Louis Cardinals. It almost makes too much sense, which is exactly why it won’t happen.